Art, opera, literature, writing, history of dress, interiors, travel, Paris . . . and more. By Susie Ralph.

Tag: #Exposition Universelle


The Bright Facade of Paris

The Bright Facade of Paris: a novel of the Belle Époque ,

I am currently working on a historical novel: The Bright Facade od Paris. It draws on research undertaken for an MA which investigates the Paris couturier Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix, 1867-1930.

Lily is a ‘woman with a past’ – a past that contains a secret which she decides to reveal as she nears the end of her life.

Set against a background of the French couture industry it tells her story: the bright, beautiful but rebellious younger daughter of successful publisher Charles Marchant, she forms the ambition of becoming a couturier like the great Madame Paquin. Lily has been raised by her mother Adeline to regard marriage as the pinnacle of a girl’s achievement, but Adeline despairs of ever making a ‘young lady’ out of her high-spirited daughter,

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Background to The Bright Facade of Paris



Paris – La ville lumière, the city of light – the city of love!  She glitters in the night like a grande-horizontale bedecked in her most extravagant jewels, like a diamond parure, hard and brilliant, resting on a bed of soft, yielding black velvet. What vices lay hidden in that inky darkness, what temptations lurk unseen in her shadowy folds? But do not concern yourself with what may lie beneath, she whispers seductively, take pleasure only in my beauty and my dress. Look – I have arrayed myself in my finest to greet the new century!

The evidence of the calendar is belied by the magnificence of her display, all the extravagances of the old century have reached a final flowering. The old ways are not ready to die yet, and the young and impressionable Lily, on the threshold of womanhood, is captivated by this glittering façade. She is letting down her defences – and, like a beautiful avaricious woman, Paris reaches out – and grasps her heart.

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